Just when we thought football was over until next summer, along came the Nations League to tire out European football’s elite footballers further. One team who has endured a poor Nations League campaign this time around is England.
Gareth Southgate’s team suffered a horrendous 4-0 home defeat by Hungary on Tuesday night. The game saw England record their biggest home defeat in 94 years.
The fans booed Southgate and his team as they exited the pitch at Molineux. It was undoubtedly the worst result of the current England boss’s reign. However, reading too much into this summer’s poor international results for the Three Lions seems rather silly.
Was the Nations League really necessary this summer?
That was the question many were asking. With no World Cup until the win in Qatar, maybe UEFA felt like it was necessary to fill a football shape void in our lives. However, in truth, the competition has only served to drag the football season out unnecessarily.
That point was proven by the lacklustre display of not only England but other top European football nations. European champions Italy for instance, suffered a 5-2 defeat against Germany. Are the Azzurri suddenly crisis-stricken? Probably not, but knowing the Italian media, the game will be seen as a national disaster.
Gareth Southgate was experimenting
The fact that Gareth Southgate decided to experiment in the game against Hungary showed that the Nations League is not a competition that the England head coach sees as vital. Most of the England players on display against the Magyars will have already been on the beach mentally after a long and hard domestic campaign.
The last thing they needed was an extra game against an opponent who looked ultra-motivated to pick up a historic victory. Hungary no doubt looked sharper and wanted the win more than the home side.
Not many surprises before the World Cup
In truth, Gareth Southgate will know the identity of most of the players who will be in his World Cup squad in November. England has two more Nations League games to come before the big event against Italy and Germany, which take place in October.
It would be highly surprising if the Three Lions didn’t produce much improved performances in the games against two of Europe’s best teams. England has already drawn against the pair in the Nations League this summer, and usually, those results would be considered creditable. However, some were concerned by the team’s performances in the four Nations League games.
Many are questioning what sort of impact that these poor results, especially Tuesday’s defeat, will have on the England squad in World Cup year. I doubt many will even remember the result when it comes to the first game of the competition against Iran. The Premier League will be in full swing, and the players will be rearing to go, which, let’s face it, they were not in the Nations League.
England boss Southgate has come in for significant criticism in recent weeks for his team’s results. However, the former Middlesbrough head coach has earned some credit from his team’s last two performances at international tournaments.
If the Three Lions crash and burn in the World Cup group stages, then people should be asking questions of the England boss. The Hungary defeat was undoubtedly a woeful one. Still, in terms of historical significance, it is doubtful that it will leave any long-lasting effects on the Three Lion’s collective psyche.
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Will the defeat against Hungary really affect England in World Cup year?